1. Earliest tree memory: pear tree (no partridges), back yard, age seven or so. Rope. One end tied to branch mid-way up, other end tied to bucket in which sits a bowl of mum’s potato salad. The oil and vinegar kind. No mayo. Me climbing enormous tree. (Proof that memories are distorted; pear trees are tiny.) Me sitting in crook of tree, hauling up bucket, eating potato salad while surveying neighbourhood—particularly Mr. Deluca next door, whose garden is full of car parts instead of flowers, which therefore makes him odd in my book. Because eating potato salad from a bucket in a tree and staring at the neighbours isn’t…
2. Living on that tiny island in the Caribbean. No pine, no spruce. We decorate a houseplant. Xmas Eve on the balcony; it’s late and so dark. Ten thousand stars. Then a lone trumpet. Someone’s playing a trumpet down in the valley. Silent Night. Not another sound. Not even wind ruffling palms, not even surf lapping against shore. The whole world has stopped to listen.
3. For years at the tree farm with a handsaw when the kids were small. Crunching through snowy trails, arguing about which one to kill. Tears because someone wants the twelve-inch Charlie Brown and someone else wants the seven-foot so-perfect-you-may-as-well-go-fake specimen. Every time we end up with neither and give it a name: Quasimodo, Shadrack, Prickles. When the holidays are done the tree carcass has become part of the family and so can’t go out on the curb for pick-up with all the other trees. We place it in the yard, out by the compost, chop it up for firewood years later when we can’t remember which one it is—Shadrack, Prickles?—but we burn its fuel with gratitude and a kind of nostalgia nonetheless.
4. Sitting at my desk, working, when a very large truck arrives on the street and men get out and hover about the neighbours’ thirty foot spruces that separate our yard from theirs. The men cut branches from the trees, lower branches only, which opens things up, makes more room on the driveway, makes perfect sense. But then they keep cutting, higher and higher branches until it doesn’t make sense anymore. Too high. It’s getting stupid and ugly. I’ve stopped working, am transfixed, staring out the window as one of the men straps himself into something, a safety belt, climbs trunk with chainsaw. Saws top off tree. Saws top off tree. It falls into the middle of the street with a thud just like death. It feels like death. But then, it is. I want to run outside, scream, cry, ask why? But I can’t move. I’m just stunned that this can even happen, that these trees—there are two—can just be executed because (I find out later) they shed too many pinecones on the driveway and lawn.
5. Alberta spruce. Cute and petite when we moved in. Two feet tall. Eventually got so big you had to shove it aside to get to the front door. Often covered in snow or rain. Finally got ridiculous. So we cut it down and with a bit of trimming, voila, this year’s specimen is born. Front lovely. No back.
6. “We had Christmas with the usual one-sided tree from the boy scouts. “If you shove the thing up against a wall,” daddy said, “who the hell’s going to notice?”” –excerpt from The Work in Progress